Q&A: Masks

I’m really sorry if you’ve answered a similar already and I’m just dumb but what do you think about a warrior who fights with a mask? I assume that even if the eye holes are big enough theres still a bit of an impediment but? Or the kind of mask that sits under the eyes and hides the lower half of the face? I really need my nano character to wear a mask for… reasons but she is a warrior first (assassin) so I want to make sure that it’s right

Masks are a thing. The only major issue is making sure the mask doesn’t obstruct their peripheral vision. Covering one’s face in combat isn’t that strange.

Even in the modern day, it’s entirely reasonable for combatants to wear bandannas or balaclavas when fighting in cold or dry environments. Or, when protecting their identity is a factor. So, in that sense, we come back to your original point.

Can someone wear a mask to protect their face in combat? Yep. No question, no ambiguity, this is an option. Particularly half masks. There’s normally no danger of these obstructing your vision, though, depending on the setting, separate eye protection may be advisable. Also, this won’t do nearly as much to conceal your identity, as the upper half of your face remains visible.

There’s also ballistic masks. These are armored face masks, though they are rarely strong enough to stop a bullet, however they can protect against flying shrapnel. Specifically, these are usually designed to avoid limiting the viewer’s vision as much as possible, and some are designed to fit onto a conventional combat helmet, with ballistic goggles to allow greater visibility.

One final possibility are face masks, like Corvo’s from Dishonored, which are specifically there to augment the wearer’s options in combat. This is more of a specialty case, but if your character’s wearing a mask designed to give them greater vision, or alternate vision modes, that might be a viable option within the rules of your setting.

The major consideration for an assassin is, if the mask can be easily hidden, of if it’s something that is socially acceptable. Otherwise they need to maintain complete invisibility, which is an unreasonable goal. An assassin needs to be able to blend in with their environment. So, let’s dig up an old joke:

You know ninja gear? That full body black suit, and full face covering? You know what that is?

It’s stagehand garb.

So, real ninjas would dress up as day laborers, servants, farmers, and other common professions. People who would not draw attention to themselves. No mask, no superhero costumes. Just, people that should be wandering around, wherever they were. They may be the courier, they may be a member of the cleaning staff. You wouldn’t know you were looking at a ninja until the last possible moment. Which is the point.

It’s far easier to pretend to be someone mundane and slip pass security, than to claim to be a super-secret assassin, bouncing in the shadows like a methed up squirrel. Best of all, when someone drops dead, security is looking for people who don’t belong. They’re not looking for the delivery guy.

So, why dress up a stagehand? Because, in Japanese plays that included ninjas assassinating characters, it became a kind of joke. The audience was conditioned to ignore the stagehands moving around the actors, they’re not part of the play, they’re the mechanics to make it happen. In that sense, it’s exactly what the ninjas would normally do, pretend to be someone that would be ignored until the last possible moment. Taken out of context, or dropped into a film, the ninja outfit is a joke. It’s a stagehand, someplace they shouldn’t be, but you’ll ignore them because they’re a ninja.

It’s also probably worth remembering that a warrior and an assassin are entirely different professions. Assassins aren’t combatants in the conventional sense. Their skillset is probably more focused on infiltration and quiet kills, rather than full on combat. It’s a minor point, that I’m not too worried about hammering on. It’s also possible you’ve got a character who does do both, maybe they served as mercenary before moving on to killing people. But, remember, these are different jobs. If your character is both, you may want to spend some time exploring that.

-Starke

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